With the University of Colorado's commitment this summer to move to the Pac-10 in either 2011 or 2012, most of us thought that the conference realignment talk was over for the state of Colorado for a long time. With news that the University of Denver is hoping to join the Western Athletic Conference it seems there is a chance that we will see some more movement for the state's universities.
The hope for the Pioneers is the WAC decides to go with two non-football playing members -- the other being former WCC hopeful Seattle University -- and adds two football playing schools, more than likely Texas-San Antonio and Texas State (unless Montana decides to upgrade its successful football program). Adding two football and two non-football schools would give the WAC 10 members for 2012-13, eight for football. According to a source, the league is also meeting with UTSA, Texas State and Montana on Sept. 28 in Dallas.
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The Pioneers' basketball team has steadily improved since former Princeton head coach Joe Scott headed west in 2007, becoming the second Tiger coach to leave for DU (the other being men's lacrosse legend Bill Tierney). Aiming to make clinch the Sun Belt's automatic birth to the NCAA tournament in 2011, Scott sees a void in rocky mountain basketball (although Colorado also has a good chance to make the tournament this year as well) and hopes that Denver will be able to become "the city's team":
Denver obviously won't cause football scheduling issues, but it does have to make its case based on its overall programs, its geographic footprint in the area and most importantly that the I-25 corridor is devoid of quality hoops from Wyoming to Colorado to Colorado State to Air Force. The Pioneers have to make the case that they can fill the vacuum and energize the state capital.
"There's a college basketball market here that hasn't been fully tapped," Scott said. "Colorado State, Colorado, Wyoming, everyone is competing for that market and it will go to whoever does well. We've got a great facility and we can grab people's attention."
The hope is that DU can be the city's team, even though the city is full of alumni from a variety of schools. Denver doesn't have alumni in the Sun Belt footprint. It does in the WAC.
The University of Denver is an athletic program on the rise, with strong hockey and lacrosse programs, and a move to the WAC conference would serve notice that DU athletics could be a player in the future.